Bri­tain to ex­tend EU cus­toms ties after 2021

The Press - - World -

Theresa May’s gov­ern­ment will tell Brus­sels it is pre­pared to stay tied to the cus­toms union be­yond 2021, as min­is­ters re­main dead­locked over a fu­ture deal with the EU, The Daily Tele­graph re­ported.

The Brexit war cab­i­net this week agreed on a ‘‘back­stop’’ as a last re­sort to avoid a hard Ir­ish bor­der, hav­ing re­jected ear­lier pro­pos­als from the EU.

Min­is­ters ap­proved the plans on Wed­nes­day de­spite ob­jec­tions from Boris John­son and Michael Gove. A pro-Eu­ro­pean Cab­i­net source said that the For­eign Sec­re­tary and En­vi­ron­ment Sec­re­tary were ‘‘out­gunned’’ dur­ing the meet­ing and re­luc­tantly ac­cepted the plans.

The Brexit sub-com­mit­tee agreed that Bri­tain would stay aligned to the cus­toms union if highly com­plex tech­nol­ogy needed to op­er­ate the bor­ders was not ready. Of­fi­cials have warned it may not be in place un­til 2023.

Gov­ern­ment sources said that the Ir­ish ‘‘back­stop’’ would be strictly ‘‘time-lim­ited’’ and would al­low Bri­tain to im­ple­ment non-EU trade deals.

How­ever, Euroscep­tics raised con­cerns that it could lead to Bri­tain be­ing tied to the cus­toms union in­def­i­nitely. Ja­cob Rees-Mogg said: ‘‘The risk of the Gov­ern­ment us­ing all its men­tal en­ergy on the fall­back po­si­tion is that it cre­ates a po­si­tion that is more at­trac­tive than a per­ma­nent deal.

‘‘We have gone from a clear end point, to an ex­ten­sion, to a pro­posed fur­ther ex­ten­sion with no end point. The hori­zon seems to be un­reach­able.

‘‘The bot­tom of the rain­bow seems to be unattain­able. Peo­ple voted to leave, they did not vote for pur­ga­tory.’’

Ear­lier this year the EU tabled a back­stop op­tion that said that Bri­tain must main­tain ‘‘full align­ment’’ with the sin­gle mar­ket and the cus­toms union to avoid a hard bor­der. On Tues­day the Brexit war cab­i­net agreed to put for­ward a new ver­sion of the back­stop, which would re­move the ref­er­ence to the sin­gle mar­ket but keep Bri­tain aligned to cus­toms union rules.

The Cab­i­net source said that John­son, Gove and David Davis had made clear their ob­jec­tions. How­ever, the Brexit Sec­re­tary was re­as­sured after se­cur­ing im­prove­ments, while other Euroscep­tics even­tu­ally de­cided to ‘‘swal­low’’ the pro­posal. Se­nior EU sources said that Bri­tain would have to agree to tem­po­rar­ily re­main in a cus­toms union to se­cure progress in talks. – Tele­graph Group

AP

Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May’s gov­ern­ment has reached a ‘‘back­stop’’ agree­ment to avoid a hard Ir­ish bor­der.

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